MLS 101: Timbers connections to MLS

As the Timbers open their 2010 season Saturday, the hype for the club’s graduation to MLS continues to build. Did you know? The Timbers already have many connections to U.S. Soccer’s top flight.As the Timbers open their 2010 season in the USSF Division-2 Pro League Saturday, the hype for the club’s graduation to Major League Soccer continues to build. While the next level features big names and successful clubs, the Timbers have already been a club familiar amongst U.S. Soccer’s top flight.

Since their re-birth in 2001, the Timbers have connections in some fashion, through either players or club partnerships, with all 16 clubs in MLS. In fact, the current Timbers roster has 16 players with MLS experience and six of those guys have three or more years of MLS time.

The Timbers’ biggest connection to any of the MLS sides is with the Los Angeles Galaxy, which has three former Timbers currently on their roster – goalkeeper Josh Saunders and forwards Alan Gordon and Bryan Jordan. Here are the connections the Timbers have to MLS over the years:

Los Angeles Galaxy – The Timbers have more history with the Galaxy than perhaps with any other team in MLS. While the teams have only played one another twice, they have shared several of the same players over the years. This season, Los Angeles has three former Timbers players on its squad. The backup goalkeeper for L.A., Saunders is the Timbers’ modern-franchise career leader in both wins (41) and shutouts (22) and played four seasons in Portland (some of those on loan from MLS). Gordon had a breakout rookie season with the Timbers in 2004, netting 17 goals and earning USL First Division Rookie of the Year honors; he was then signed by the Galaxy in 2005. After a solid rookie season with the Timbers in 2007, Jordan was transferred to the Galaxy, along with former goalkeeper Josh Wicks, in advance of the 2008 season.

The Galaxy also signed former Timbers defenders Mike Randolph and Leonard Griffin after their time in Portland. Current Timbers who have played for the Galaxy during their careers include goalkeeper Steve Cronin and defender Scot Thompson, who was drafted by Los Angeles in the second round of the 2003 MLS SuperDraft.

New York Red Bulls – Perhaps it was lost in the shuffle in the minds of some Timbers fans, but the Red Bulls helped celebrate a special day in Timbers soccer history. On March 20, 2009, MLS Commissioner Don Garber welcomed Portland to MLS as an expansion team in 2011, and that night, the Timbers faced New York in preseason game in Portland. Already in the Northwest to play Seattle Sounders FC, the Red Bulls traveled down to the Rose City and played the Timbers to a scoreless draw.

Philadelphia Union – The Union’s goalkeeping duo of Chris Seitz and Brad Knighton have close ties to the Timbers. Both suited up for Portland while on loan in recent seasons. Knighton was loaned to the Timbers from the New England Revolution in 2008 and played in eight games during the second half of the season. Seitz was with the Timbers early last year, filling in for two games on loan from Real Salt Lake while starter Steve Cronin was recovered from a minor injury. In his two-game stint with Portland, Seitz did not allow a goal.

Toronto FC – In 2007, the Timbers played Toronto FC in an exhibition match in October at PGE Park. Featuring a handful of guest players, the Timbers recorded a 4-1 win over Toronto, which featured its key players Maurice Edu, Marvel Wynne, Todd Dunivant and Andrew Boyens in the match.

An additional connection is through current Timbers midfielder Derek Gaudet, who was a developmental player for the Reds in 2008.

D.C. United – One of the most successful clubs in MLS history, D.C. United and the Timbers have a more recent connection through current Portland goalkeeper Steve Cronin. Following the Timbers’ 2009 season, Cronin was loaned to United for the remainder of the 2009 MLS campaign and played in a pair of regular-season matches as the MLS side made a push for the postseason. He also played in a CONCACAF Champions League match for D.C. United. Goalkeeper Josh Wicks, who was the USL First Division Goalkeeper of the Year with Portland in 2007, is currently a member of D.C. United and begins his second season with the club in 2010. Current Timbers defender Quavas Kirk played in 10 matches for D.C. United in 2008.

Real Salt Lake – Another club with more recent connections to the Timbers is Real Salt Lake. Salt Lake midfielder Alex Nimo joins the Timbers in 2010 for a second season on loan from the MLS side. Current defender and team captain Ian Joy played the entire 2008 season with Real Salt Lake, helping Salt Lake to its first playoff appearance in club history. Joy played the first part of the 2009 campaign in Salt Lake before moving overseas.

Additionally, the Timbers and Salt Lake will always share special connection in midfielder Collen Warner, who became the first Timbers U-23s player to make his way to the MLS this season.

Seattle Sounders FC – Perhaps one of the most memorable matches of the Timbers current era was the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fixture in 2009 between Portland and Seattle at PGE Park. The long-standing rivalry between the two clubs over the years fostered an incredible environment for that match and was the Timbers’ first sell-out crowd at PGE Park since 2001.

Sounders FC midfielder Sanna Nyassi has one game as a member of the Timbers under his belt, playing as a guest player in an exhibition against Mexico’s Morelia in Seattle, Wash., in 2008; he scored for the Timbers in that game.

Colorado Rapids – Current Timbers defender Stephen Keel, a Colorado native, played four seasons with the Rapids from 2005-08 before joining the Timbers in advance of the 2009 campaign. Timbers goalkeeper Adin Brown was a member of the Rapids for nearly two seasons from 2000-01; he was selected third-overall by Colorado in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft.

Houston Dynamo – Defender Mike Chabala joined the Timbers on loan from Houston during his rookie season in 2006. He played in eight games for Portland that season. Now, he’s a regular contributor for the Dynamo and enters his fourth MLS season in 2010.

Chivas USA – This season, the Timbers currently have two former members of Chivas USA on their roster. Midfielder Keith Savage played his rookie season for Chivas USA in 2008; in fact, he was the club’s only selection in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. Midfielder Rodrigo Lopez played for Chivas USA, the sister club for Mexico’s Chivas, from 2005-07.

San Jose Earthquakes – The Timbers and Earthquakes recently played in a preseason matchup in March; the result was a 1-1 draw. Portland and San Jose have played five times since 2001; that the most the Timbers have played against any one MLS side. In fact, the Earthquakes were the Timbers first-ever exhibition opponent back in June 2001 (the Timbers earned a 2-1 win). San Jose’s last visit to the Rose City was in 2008 for a preseason fixture in which it won 1-0.

FC Dallas – The Timbers have a couple ties to FC Dallas, with both current and former players. Former Dallas goalkeeper Ray Burse was loaned to the Timbers in 2008. He performed well for the Timbers through the first few months of the season, but was recalled by Dallas for good in July.

Current Portland defender Steve Purdy was a member of FC Dallas in 2009 and started the first five games of last season for the club. For a short spell, midfielder Tony McManus was on loan to FC Dallas during the 2005 season from the Atlanta Silverbacks.

Chicago Fire – Small connections, but ones none the less. Timbers midfielder Tony McManus was drafted in the sixth round of the 2004 MLS SuperDraft by the Fire. Also, assistant coach Amos Magee was a member of the Fire back in his playing days during the 2000 and 2001 seasons.

Kansas City Wizards – The Timbers have featured two former Wizards players in recent years. Former Portland forward Chris Brown played from 1999-2003 with the Wizards as part of nine-year MLS career. Current Timbers midfielder Ryan Pore played four seasons with the Wizards from 2005-08 before signing with the Timbers.

Additionally, new forward Doug DeMartin was a draft pick of Kansas City in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft.

Columbus Crew – Current Timbers forward George Josten played his rookie season in 2008 with the Crew, who won the MLS Cup title that season. Also, rookie forward Bright Dike was selected 12th-overall by Columbus in this year’s MLS SuperDraft and spent the entire preseason with the MLS club; he was one of the Crew’s final roster cuts prior to the start of the 2010 MLS season.

New England Revolution – Current Timbers goalkeeper Adin Brown played three seasons with New England from 2002-04. He led the Revs to a 2002 MLS Cup appearance and to the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2003. Previous Timbers players who spent parts of their careers with the Revolution are forwards Chris Brown and Chris Bagley, both members of the Timbers’ 2008 squad.

Okay, it’s a stretch, but one that long-time Timbers fans can relate to. Current New England goalkeeper Preston Burpo was a staple in goal for the Seattle Sounders’ United Soccer Leagues team and played against the Timbers from 2001-05. Over the years through the rivalry with Seattle, he became one of the more disliked players who visited PGE Park by Timbers fans and supporters. Don’t believe it? Catch his first game back in the Rose City in 2011.